30 Big Reasons Not to Specialize Early. From the NFL

The debate over specializing in a single sport at an early age, isn’t a debate. The ones who think you should specialize in one sport are parents who mean well but, who are uninformed.

The 2017 NFL draft just helped reinforce that fact.

In the 2017 NFL draft, teams put their money behind multi-sport athletes, showing that the idea of young athletes giving up other sports to just play football was a bad idea. Take a look at the numbers;
• 30 of the 32 players were multi-sport athletes in high school.
• All of the top 20 played at least 2 sports.
• 14 of the players played 3 sports in high school.
• 92% of the 107 players taken in rounds 1 through 3 were multi-sport athletes.

Yes, there are some sports where you will have to specialize early to be elite. Think about gymnastics or figure skating for example. However, in team sports, such as football, this is not the case. Yes, you probably need to be exposed to the sport or develop some of the skills early, but you don’t need to give up every other sport and just play one.

It’s understandable how people could think early specialization would be good.

How is a parent, or a maybe a local travel coach supposed to know better? There is the popular myth about having to specialize for 10,000 hours to be elite. On the surface, it also seems to make sense that if you start specializing in one skill early, you’ll be better at it. Then there’s the fears of falling behind or getting shut out if you take time to do another sport.

What a lot of individuals do not know is that team sports and athletic development are far more complex and dynamic. We have motor learning, motivation, repetitive injuries, movement dysfunction, cognitive development and just plain fun that all need to be part of this equation.

Some will of course continue to make the case for picking one sport early. The science of development and motivation, the experience of successful coaches, and the choices of NFL teams, all say “don’t specialize!” Instead go play multiple sports if you want to increase your chances of having an athletic career.

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